Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Simona Halep: She's got a new attitude

Running hot
Running cold
I was running into overload...

Somehow that wire's uncrossed
The tables were turned
Never knew I had such a lesson to learn...

I've tidied up my point of view
I've got a new attitude

from "New Attitude," Hull, Gilutin, Robinson 

I wasn't sure that a "new" Simona Halep had emerged from the rubble of Miami, but today, the Romanian star did a dramatic reversal of much of her old, self-defeating behavior. Very dramatic. 

Up against Elina Svitolina (and no, this wasn't even a final, but a quarterfinal), Halep needed all the athleticism, strategy and mental strength she could muster. The hot Ukrainian player entered Suzanne Lenglen Court containing an inner fire that would almost burn Halep to a crisp. This didn't have to do with a poor performance from Halep, but rather, with Svitolina's entering a kind of scary zone in which she hit everything as though she were some kind of tennis super-hero sent to rain misery on Romania. 

Svitolina totally dominated Halep, and before you could say "bow down to Elina of the Golden Forehand," Halep found herself down 0-5. It was at that point that the 3rd seed figured out how to interrupt Svitolina's transition game, cutting her off at the pass, as it were, and taking over the offensive role. That left Halep with a 3-6 set, which must have felt a lot better than a 0-6 set.

But then the second set commenced, and Svitolina came swooping down again, not allowing Halep to get any momentum or construct any points. The 5th seed went up 5-1, and it was easy--and natural--to start wondering about how she would fare in her semifinal match. But something was different, and that something was Simona Halep. Instead of muguing (it's a handy verb) around and getting a head start on the grief process, she played tennis. She played as though she were trying to win the match. She displayed a new attitude.

In tennis, you have your forehand, your backhand, your footwork, your speed--and, as a friend of mine used to say--your head part. Simona held onto her head part, and couldn't help but notice that Elina was letting hers slip away. Svitolina served for the match at 5-2 and was broken. She served again at 5-4, and was broken. Halep was now in full flight, though her opponent was able to save three set points and send the set to a tiebreak, in which Svitolina held her only match point. But again, Halep stopped her, and though it took Halep several set points to take the set, she eventually did it. 

And that was that. Halep won the final set 6-0. The opponents took turns demoralizing each other, but it was Halep's turn that counted. What a match. 

Meanwhile, France's last hope, Caroline Garcia, had to contest against Karolina Pliskova. As the 2nd seed, Pliskova was hardly playing with house money, but she seemed to think she was. The non- clay-favoring Long Tall (Cool) One has quietly gone about her business in Paris, taking out opponents while fans and commentators talked about everyone from Kiki Mladenovic to Caroline Wozniacki, as well as players who aren't even there. 

This match lacked the drama of the first match (most matches would), but it was well-played, and Pliskova won it 7-6, 6-4. And while she made an exit today, Caroline Garcia has a lot to be proud of.

Pliskova, it turns out, wasn't the only Czech player sneaking up on potential glory. The doubles team of Lucie Hradecka and Katerina Siniakova upset 2nd seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-4. 

In other doubles play, top seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova prevailed, as did 3rd seeds Chan Yung-Jan and Martina Hingis, and Ash Barty and Casey Dellacqua. 

Tomorrow's first semifinal features the unseeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and 30th seed Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland. The second features 3rd seed Halep and 2nd seed Pliskova.


Todd.Spiker said...

It's still too bad that Halep/Svitolina had to be QF, but at least we *got* the match. The "hoped-for" match doesn't always happen at all.

Brilliant move from Pliskova this spring to convince everyone she didn't have a chance. Yet she could end up walking away with, quite simply, everything.

Diane said...

The Long Tall Sly One 😎🥒